Tyranny is BiPartisan

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Macs No More: After Edward Snowden, Time to Come to the Penguin

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-schneider/macs-no-more-after-edward_b_3417422.html


This can’t go on much longer. You know the scene: a laptop-y cafe, full of freelancers and trust funders occasionally checking each other out but mostly just staring into their luminous screens doing whatever start-up, world-shaking stuff they’re doing. But on the back of every single screen, almost, is that glowing apple with a bite bitten out of it — Mac after Mac after Mac.

Really? How long can the creative class tolerate such crass conformity? And now that Edward Snowden has revealed the U.S. government’s shadowy surveillance deals with companies like Apple and Microsoft, how long will we let ourselves be watched?

The apparently tranquil cafe scene lies in the crossfire of demons. Basically what’s going on right now is that the major tech companies — particularly Apple and Microsoft, though Google more ambiguously — are undertaking a fight to the death over which can more quickly totalitarianize the computer universe in which way too many of us live for too much of our lives. And to what momentous ends? So you’ll put the files you’ve poured your life into creating on their cloud servers. So they can insert ads into the programs you’re trying to use (which aren’t actual programs anymore, just “apps”). So they can keep you from knowing important stuff about the world or doing what might threaten their business model. So their employees can take over the trendy neighborhoods of your city. And, of course: so the government can watch everything you do.

The reason Apple stuff is so stylish is so we don’t have to be. With each new version of Mac OS X, the computer becomes more and more like an iPhone or an iPad — a device designed for controlled consumption, not real creating. (With Windows 8 and the Surface, Microsoft has a head start.) The idea is to turn the computer from a general-purpose anything-machine into a ad-distributing appliance. Your mind is meant to become one too, as the Pslamist predicted this long ago: “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” We are what we use, and how.

Macs are on version 10.8 now, and 10.9 is next. What will come after that? 11.0? “XI”? That, or the journey toward the dark side will be complete.

It has been a decade or more since the big open-source buzz in Silicon Valley. (The revolution will be crowdsourced! Here comes everybody!)

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-schneider/macs-no-more-after-edward_b_3417422.html

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Defend Edward Snowden!

From World Socialist Web Site:  http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/06/13/pers-j13.html

Barry Grey and David North
13 June 2013

The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party call on all workers, students and youth within the United States and internationally to come to the defense of Edward Snowden.

Snowden is the target of a massive government witch-hunt organized in response to his courageous exposure of secret and illegal surveillance programs targeting millions of people in the US and around the world. His defense is a matter of the greatest urgency.

The Obama administration has already said it plans to indict the 29-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. Congressmen, senators and media commentators have denounced him for treason and demanded that he be jailed for life or executed.

The charge of treason is a vicious libel. Snowden is not the one betraying the democratic principles embodied in the Bill of Rights. By exposing the conspiracy against these rights and coming forward at the cost of his career and possibly his life, he is defending them.

Snowden was not in the least exaggerating when he said his life was in danger. No doubt his decision to go public was taken in part because he realized his defense depended on an informed public, and that otherwise he could be targeted to become the next victim of the Obama administration’s assassination program.

What is extraordinary is that the full rage and anger of Congress and the media are directed not against those responsible for carrying out massive violations of the US Constitution, but against the man who has exposed them. Only a few weeks ago, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, perjured himself before a Senate committee when he was asked whether any government programs collected data on millions of Americans. Yet no official or newspaper is calling for his prosecution.

Nor are there any calls for impeachment proceedings against Obama. Forty years ago, Richard Nixon faced impeachment for actions that did not come close in their gravity to the violations of the Constitution carried out by the current president.

Continue reading at:  http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/06/13/pers-j13.html

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It’s High Time We Abolished the Department of Homeland Security

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/thom-hartmann-abolish-homeland-security

It’s the path to national sanity.

By Thom Hartmann
June 11, 2013

The surveillance state is even bigger, and scarier, than we thought.

And, as a result, it’s time that we broke up the failed national security experiment known as the Department of Homeland Security. Returning to dozens of independent agencies will return internal checks-and-balances to within the Executive branch, and actually make us both safer and less likely to be the victims of government snooping overreach.

Last Wednesday, the  Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald revealed that the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon users. The agency received authorization to track phone “metadata” over a 3 month period from a special court order issued in April.

We now also know that what the  Guardian uncovered is just the tip of the iceberg of an ongoing phone and internet records collection program that likely includes almost all major U.S. telecommunications companies.

President Obama – who promised the “most transparent administration ever” – now finds himself and his DHS at the center of yet another civil liberties controversy. That controversy has deepened in the wake of two reports published last night in both the Washington Post and the Guardian that outlined a different NSA snooping program – a data mining initiative code-named “PRISM.”

PRISM – which was created in 2007 during the Bush Administration – is almost certainly the most far-reaching surveillance program ever created. By reaching into the servers of 9 different major U.S. internet companies – including Facebook, Google and Apple – the NSA has access to millions of users’ personal data, including emails, chats and videos.

Although PRISM is supposed to only be used to gain information about “foreign individuals” suspected of terrorism – the very methods used to access such information inevitably suck up the private data of American citizens

As the  Washington Post pointed out:

“Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in.”

These startling revelations about American intelligence agencies raise a number of questions, the first being, of course, who’s the  Guardian‘s source?

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/thom-hartmann-abolish-homeland-security

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Another Truth-Teller Steps Forward

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/10-7

Edward Snowden, the person who disclosed top-secret documents on the U.S. government’s massive surveillance programs, is reportedly in Hong Kong and seeking asylum from countries that value openness and freedom, conditions seen as slipping away at home

by Ray McGovern

Before the U.S. government and the mainstream media engage in the customary character assassination of truth-teller Edward Snowden – a fate endured by Pfc. Bradley Manning and others – let’s get on the record the motives he gave for releasing the trove of information on intrusive eavesdropping by the National Security Agency.

Why would someone like Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of national-security contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, jeopardize what he calls “a very comfortable life” in order to blow the whistle on the U.S. government’s abuse of power?

If what he did sounds weird, this is only because there are so precious few like him who will stand on principle and risk everything. Snowden explained that if the public does not know about these intrusive programs, there is no room for citizen input regarding how they square with our constitutional rights.

Snowden, who was living in Hawaii with a promising career and a salary said to be about $200,000 a year, told the London Guardian: “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom, and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re now building.”

He added that he wanted to reveal the “federation of secret law, unequal pardon, and irresistible executive powers that rule the world I love. … What they’re doing poses an existential threat to democracy.”

Snowden enlisted in the Army in 2003 and began training to join the Special Forces. He told the Guardian: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression.” He quickly found, though, that, in his words, “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone.” Snowden broke both legs in a training accident and was discharged.

In several key respects, the experiences of Snowden resemble those of Bradley Manning. Both took the enlisted person’s oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” As a condition of employment, both signed a promise not to disclose classified information; and both witnessed at close hand flagrant abuses that their consciences told them they needed to expose.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/10-7

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Water in the Anthropocene

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Secret Trade Agreements Threaten to Undo Our Last Shreds of Food Safety

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/food/secret-trade-agreements-threaten-food-safety

You could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don’t meet even basic U.S. food safety standards.

By Katherine Paul, Ronnie Cummins
June 13, 2013

If you think the U.S. government is doing a sub-par job of keeping your food safe, brace yourself. You could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don’t meet even basic U.S. food safety standards. Under two new trade agreements, currently in negotiation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be powerless to shut down imports of unsafe food or food ingredients. And if it tries, multinational corporations will be able to sue the U.S. government for the loss of anticipated future profits.

More frightening? Negotiations for both agreements are taking place behind closed doors, with input allowed almost exclusively from the corporations and industry trade groups that stand to benefit the most. And the Obama Administration intends to push the agreements through Congress without so much as giving lawmakers access to draft texts, much less the opportunity for debate.

Designed to grease the wheels of world commerce, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would force the U.S. and other participating countries to “harmonize” food safety standards. That means all countries that sign on to the agreement would be required to abide by the lowest common denominator standards of all participating governments. So for instance, say Vietnam allows higher residues of veterinary antibiotics in seafood than the U.S. allows, and Vietnam and the U.S. both sign on to the TPP. As a trade partner, the U.S. could be forced to lower its standards to allow for imports of seafood from Vietnam – or face a lawsuit by the seafood exporter for depriving the company of future sales of its products in the U.S.

The U.S. has already had a taste of this type of policy under the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). In 2005, the Canadian Cattlemen for Fair Trade sued the U.S. government for banning imports of beef and live Canadian cattle after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada. In the end, the U.S. prevailed, but not until it had spent millions to defend itself in court. Mexico wasn’t so fortunate when three companies (Corn Products International, ADM/Tate & Lyle and Cargill) sued the Mexican government for preventing imports of high fructose corn syrup. Mexico lost all three cases, and was forced to pay out a total of $169.18 million to the three firms.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/food/secret-trade-agreements-threaten-food-safety

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